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Identifying hearing prosthesis actuator resonance peak(s)

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Identifying hearing prosthesis actuator resonance peak(s)


An auditory prosthesis comprising an actuator for providing mechanical stimulation to a recipient. The auditory prosthesis comprises a measurement circuit for use in determining the resonance peak(s) of the actuator. In an embodiment, the measurement circuit measures the voltage drop across the actuator and/or current through the actuator during a frequency sweep of the operational frequencies of the actuator. These measured voltages and/or currents are then analyzed for discontinuities that are indicative of a resonance peak of the actuator. In another embodiment, rather than using a frequency sweep to measure voltages and/or currents across the actuator, the measurement circuit instead applies a voltage impulse to the actuator and then measure the voltage and/or current across the actuator for a period of time after application of the impulse. The measured voltages and/or currents are then analyzed to identify resonance peak(s) of the actuator.
Related Terms: Auditory Prosthesis

Inventors: Koen Van den Heuvel, Werner Meskens
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120286765 - Class: 324 7649 (USPTO) - 11/15/12 - Class 324 


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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120286765, Identifying hearing prosthesis actuator resonance peak(s).

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BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to hearing prostheses, and more particularly, to hearing prostheses configured to apply mechanical stimulation.

2. Related Art

Hearing loss, which may be due to many different causes, is generally of two types, conductive and sensorineural. Sensorineural hearing loss is due to the absence or destruction of the hair cells in the cochlea that transduce sound signals into nerve impulses. Various prosthetic hearing implants have been developed to provide individuals who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss with the ability to perceive sound. One such prosthetic hearing implant is referred to as a cochlear implant. Cochlear implants use an electrode array implanted in the cochlea of a recipient to bypass the mechanisms of the ear. More specifically, an electrical stimulus is provided via the electrode array directly to the auditory nerve, thereby causing a hearing sensation.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when the normal mechanical pathways that provide sound to hair cells in the cochlea are impeded, for example, by damage to the ossicular chain or ear canal. However, individuals suffering from conductive hearing loss may retain some form of residual hearing because the hair cells in the cochlea may remain undamaged.

Still other individuals suffer from mixed hearing losses, that is, conductive hearing loss in conjunction with sensorineural hearing. Such individuals may have damage to the outer or middle ear, as well as to the inner ear (cochlea).

Individuals suffering from conductive hearing loss are typically not candidates for a cochlear implant due to the irreversible nature of the cochlear implant. Specifically, insertion of the electrode assembly into a recipient\'s cochlea exposes the recipient to potential destruction of the majority of hair cells within the cochlea. Typically, destruction of the cochlea hair cells results in the loss of residual hearing in the portion of the cochlea in which the electrode assembly is implanted.

Rather, individuals suffering from conductive hearing loss typically receive an acoustic hearing aid, referred to as a hearing aid herein. Hearing aids rely on principles of air conduction to transmit acoustic signals to the cochlea. In particular, a hearing aid typically uses an arrangement positioned in the recipient\'s ear canal or on the outer ear to amplify a sound received by the outer ear of the recipient. This amplified sound reaches the cochlea causing motion of the perilymph and stimulation of the auditory nerve.

Unfortunately, not all individuals who suffer from conductive hearing loss are able to derive suitable benefit from hearing aids. For example, some individuals are prone to chronic inflammation or infection of the ear canal thereby eliminating hearing aids as a potential solution. Other individuals have malformed or absent outer ear and/or ear canals resulting from a birth defect, or as a result of medical conditions such as Treacher Collins syndrome or Microtia. Furthermore, hearing aids are typically unsuitable for individuals who suffer from single-sided deafness (total hearing loss only in one ear). Hearing aids commonly referred to as “cross aids” have been developed for single sided deaf individuals. These devices receive the sound from the deaf side with one hearing aid and present this signal (either via a direct electrical connection or wirelessly) to a hearing aid which is worn on the opposite side. Unfortunately, this requires the recipient to wear two hearing aids. Additionally, in order to prevent acoustic feedback problems, hearing aids generally require that the ear canal be plugged, resulting in unnecessary pressure, discomfort, or other problems such as eczema.

As noted above, hearing aids rely primarily on the principles of air conduction. However, other types of devices commonly referred to as bone conducting hearing aids or bone conduction devices, function by converting a received sound into a mechanical force. This force is transferred through the bones of the skull to the cochlea and causes motion of the cochlea fluid. Hair cells inside the cochlea are responsive to this motion of the cochlea fluid and generate nerve impulses which result in the perception of the received sound. Bone conduction devices have been found suitable to treat a variety of types of hearing loss and may be suitable for individuals who cannot derive sufficient benefit from acoustic hearing aids, cochlear implants, etc, or for individuals who suffer from stuttering problems.

Another type of hearing prosthesis that converts received sound into a mechanical force in treating hearing loss is a direct acoustic cochlear stimulator (DACS) (also sometimes referred to as a “direct mechanical stimulator” or “inner ear mechanical stimulation device”). A DACS comprises an actuator that generates vibrations that are coupled to the inner ear of a recipient and thus bypasses the outer and middle ear.

One other type of hearing prosthesis that converts sound into a mechanical force in treating hearing loss is a middle ear mechanical stimulation device (also sometimes referred to as a “direct drive middle ear hearing device” or “implantable middle ear hearing device”). Such, stimulation devices comprise an actuator that generates vibrations that are coupled to the middle ear of a recipient (e.g., to a bone of the ossicles).

SUMMARY

In one aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method for identifying one or more resonance peaks of an actuator of an auditory prosthesis configured to apply mechanical stimulation to a recipient, the method comprising: providing a signal to the actuator to cause actuation of the actuator; measuring at least one of a voltage across the actuator and a current through the actuator; and analyzing the measured values to identify at least one resonance peak of the actuator.

In another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an auditory prosthesis comprising: an actuator configured to apply mechanical stimulation to a recipient to cause a hearing percept by the recipient; a signal generator configured to provide a signal to the actuator to cause actuation of the actuator; a measurement circuit configured to measure at least one of a voltage across the actuator and a current through the actuator; a control circuit configured analyze the measured values to identify at least one resonance peak of the actuator.

In yet another aspect, there is provided an auditory prosthesis comprising: means for applying mechanical stimulation to a recipient to cause a hearing percept by the recipient; means for providing a signal to the means for applying mechanical stimulation; means for measuring at least one of a voltage across the means for applying mechanical stimulation and a current through the means for applying mechanical stimulation; and means for analyzing the measured values to identify at least one resonance peak of the means for applying mechanical stimulation.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Embodiments of the present invention are described below with reference to the attached drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is perspective view of an individual\'s head in which an auditory prosthesis in accordance with embodiments of the present invention may be implemented;

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of an exemplary DACS, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 2B is a perspective view of another type of DACS, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 illustrates a frequency response of an exemplary actuator;

FIG. 4 is a simplified block diagram of an internal component of an exemplary auditory prosthesis including a measurement circuit, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 provides a flow chart of an exemplary method for determining the resonance peak(s) of an actuator, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 illustrates an exemplary voltage curve for a voltage measured across am actuator for a frequency sweep, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 illustrates an exemplary velocity curve in micrometers/sec versus frequency for an actuator, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8A is a simplified block diagram of an internal component of an exemplary auditory prosthesis including a measurement circuit, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8B illustrates an exemplary Class D amplifier (PWM/PDM) interface with push-pull that can be placed in a high-impedance state, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 9 illustrates an exemplary voltage versus time plot for application of a single impulse, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 10 provides an exemplary flow 900 for determining the resonance peak(s) using an impulse, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 11 illustrates an exemplary frequency response of the measured voltage of FIG. 8, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 12 provides an exemplary voltage versus time plot for application of impulses, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a bone conduction device in which embodiments of the present invention may be advantageously implemented;

FIG. 14 is a simplified block diagram of an internal component of an exemplary auditory prosthesis including a measurement circuit, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 15 illustrates an exemplary voltage curve for a voltage measured across an electromagnetic actuator, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 16 illustrates an exemplary output force level curve for an electromagnetic actuator, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 17 illustrates an exemplary voltage curve for a voltage measured across a Piezo actuator, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 18 illustrates an exemplary output force level curve for a Piezo actuator, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Embodiments of the present invention are generally directed to an auditory prosthesis comprising an actuator for providing mechanical stimulation to a recipient. The auditory prosthesis further comprises a measurement circuit for use in determining the resonance peak(s) of the actuator. In an embodiment, the measurement circuit measures the voltage drop across the actuator by applying a frequency sweep of the operational frequencies of the actuator. These measured voltages are then analyzed for discontinuities that are indicative of a resonance peak of the actuator. In an embodiment, rather than (or in conjunction with) measuring the voltage drop across the actuator, the measurement circuit measures the current through the actuator across the operational frequency range of the actuator and then analyzes the measured currents for discontinuities indicative of a resonance peak of the actuator.

In another embodiment, rather than using a frequency sweep to measure voltages and/or currents across the actuator, the measurement circuit instead applies a voltage impulse to the actuator and then measure the voltage and/or current across the actuator for a period of time after application of the impulse. The measured voltages and/or currents are then be analyzed in the frequency domain to identify resonance peak(s) of the actuator.

FIG. 1 is perspective view of an individual\'s head in which an auditory prosthesis in accordance with embodiments of the present invention may be implemented. As shown in FIG. 1, the individual\'s hearing system comprises an outer ear 101, a middle ear 105 and an inner ear 107. In a fully functional ear, outer ear 101 comprises an auricle 110 and an ear canal 102. An acoustic pressure or sound wave 103 is collected by auricle 110 and channeled into and through ear canal 102. Disposed across the distal end of ear cannel 102 is a tympanic membrane 104 which vibrates in response to sound wave 103. This vibration is coupled to oval window or fenestra ovalis 112 through three bones of middle ear 105, collectively referred to as the ossicles 106 and comprising the malleus 108, the incus 109 and the stapes 111. Bones 108, 109 and 111 of middle ear 105 serve to filter and amplify sound wave 103, causing oval window 112 to articulate, or vibrate in response to vibration of tympanic membrane 104. This vibration sets up waves of fluid motion of the perilymph within cochlea 140. Such fluid motion, in turn, activates tiny hair cells (not shown) inside of cochlea 140. Activation of the hair cells causes appropriate nerve impulses to be generated and transferred through the spiral ganglion cells (not shown) and auditory nerve 114 to the brain (also not shown) where they are perceived as sound.

As shown in FIG. 1 are semicircular canals 125. Semicircular canals 125 are three half-circular, interconnected tubes located adjacent cochlea 140. The three canals are the horizontal semicircular canal 126, the posterior semicircular canal 127, and the superior semicircular canal 128. The canals 126, 127 and 128 are aligned approximately orthogonally to one another. Specifically, horizontal canal 126 is aligned roughly horizontally in the head, while the superior 128 and posterior canals 127 are aligned roughly at a 45 degree angle to a vertical through the center of the individual\'s head.

Each canal is filled with a fluid called endolymph and contains a motion sensor with tiny hairs (not shown) whose ends are embedded in a gelatinous structure called the cupula (also not shown). As the skull twists in any direction, the endolymph is forced into different sections of the canals. The hairs detect when the endolymph passes thereby, and a signal is then sent to the brain. Using these hair cells, horizontal canal 126 detects horizontal head movements, while the superior 128 and posterior 127 canals detect vertical head movements.

One type of auditory prosthesis that converts sound to mechanical stimulation in treating hearing loss is a direct acoustic cochlear stimulator (DACS) (also sometimes referred to as an “inner ear mechanical stimulation device” or “direct mechanical stimulator”). A DACS generates vibrations that are directly coupled to the inner ear of a recipient and thus bypasses the outer and middle ear of the recipient. FIG. 2A is a perspective view of an exemplary DACS 200A in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.

DACS 200A comprises an external component 242 that is directly or indirectly attached to the body of the recipient, and an internal component 244A that is temporarily or permanently implanted in the recipient. External component 242 typically comprises one or more sound input elements, such as microphones 224 for detecting sound, a sound processing unit 226, a power source (not shown), and an external transmitter unit (also not shown). The external transmitter unit is disposed on the exterior surface of sound processing unit 226 and comprises an external coil (not shown). Sound processing unit 226 processes the output of microphones 224 and generates encoded signals, sometimes referred to herein as encoded data signals, which are provided to the external transmitter unit. For ease of illustration, sound processing unit 226 is shown detached from the recipient.

Internal component 244A comprises an internal receiver unit 232, a stimulator unit 220, and a stimulation arrangement 250A. Internal receiver unit 232 and stimulator unit 220 are hermetically sealed within a biocompatible housing, sometimes collectively referred to herein as a stimulator/receiver unit.

Internal receiver unit 232 comprises an internal coil (not shown), and preferably, a magnet (also not shown) fixed relative to the internal coil. The external coil transmits electrical signals (i.e., power and stimulation data) to the internal coil via a radio frequency (RF) link. The internal coil is typically a wire antenna coil comprised of multiple turns of electrically insulated single-strand or multi-strand platinum or gold wire. The electrical insulation of the internal coil is provided by a flexible silicone molding (not shown). In use, implantable receiver unit 132 is positioned in a recess of the temporal bone adjacent auricle 110 of the recipient in the illustrated embodiment.

In the illustrative embodiment, stimulation arrangement 250A is implanted in middle ear 105. For ease of illustration, ossicles 106 have been omitted from FIG. 2A. However, it should be appreciated that stimulation arrangement 250A is implanted without disturbing ossicles 106 in the illustrated embodiment.

Stimulation arrangement 250A comprises an actuator 240, a stapes prosthesis 252 and a coupling element 251. In this embodiment, stimulation arrangement 250A is implanted and/or configured such that a portion of stapes prosthesis 252 abuts an opening in one of the semicircular canals 125. For example, in the illustrative embodiment, stapes prosthesis 252 abuts an opening in horizontal semicircular canal 126. It would be appreciated that in alternative embodiments, stimulation arrangement 250A is implanted such that stapes prosthesis 252 abuts an opening in posterior semicircular canal 127 or superior semicircular canal 128.

As noted above, a sound signal is received by one or more microphones 224, processed by sound processing unit 226, and transmitted as encoded data signals to internal receiver 232. Based on these received signals, stimulator unit 220 generates drive signals which cause actuation of actuator 240. This actuation is transferred to stapes prosthesis 252 such that a wave of fluid motion is generated in horizontal semicircular canal 126. Because, vestibule 129 provides fluid communication between the semicircular canals 125 and the median canal, the wave of fluid motion continues into median canal, thereby activating the hair cells of the organ of Corti. Activation of the hair cells causes appropriate nerve impulses to be generated and transferred through the spiral ganglion cells (not shown) and auditory nerve 114 to the brain (also not shown) where they are perceived as sound.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120286765 A1
Publish Date
11/15/2012
Document #
13106335
File Date
05/12/2011
USPTO Class
324 7649
Other USPTO Classes
600 25
International Class
/
Drawings
20


Auditory Prosthesis


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